How to Love Yourself Through Your Religious Deconstruction

You are totally confused. Your journey does not make sense. You have difficulty understanding where you are and therefore even greater difficulty in loving yourself and articulating yourself. You're feeling a mixture of shame, frustration, fear, and maybe even guilt.

i love me cartoon nakedpastor david hayward

Here's a simple little strategy I apply when I'm feeling this way:

Talk To Yourself With Love as If You Were Your Best Friend

This really happened. My friend Sue (not her real name) and I are meeting for a coffee. Sue says she is deconstructing her beliefs and completely confused. She no longer believes many of the things she used to believe. She doesn't know what she believes anymore. Tears fill her eyes. She says she's even questioning the existence of God. In fact, she expresses fear that she might turn into an atheist. She wrestles night and day with her confusion, shame, and guilt. She says she really feels like a refugee lost at sea and wonders if she'll ever ever find solid ground again.¬† She's in no-man's land, belonging nowhere and to no one. There doesn't seem to be anyone who can listen or who understands. To make matters worse, those who love her are very concerned and express it in meaning-laden comments loaded with ulterior motives that make her self-doubt loom even larger in her mind. I give her a tissue. She's embarrassed‚ not just by her tears, but with herself. I notice she seldom takes a sip of her coffee because she's so absorbed in her anguish. I point this out, and she admits that this is what her life is actually like‚ she can't just live life because she's stuck inside her predicament, tangled up in her thoughts, and trapped inside her confusion. I recognize her impatience. She's desperate to settle down, find a home, and be fully and confidently herself again.

Listen to Yourself Without Judgement 

I don't try to correct her or change her. Why? Because I'm not afraid of or surprised by what she's going through. I recognize it from my own experience. I'm very familiar with what she's enduring. I think she's in a good place. A very good place. She's growing and it hurts. So I'm not going to say anything to endorse or fortify her negative feelings about herself‚ her shame, her frustration, her fear, her guilt. Although these are natural, these are negative, judgmental, and even destructive ideas, echoed by her concerned family and friends, that are attempting to drag her back to her former self. I love her and care for her and tell her that she's doing an amazing job and that if she gives herself time she will come out the other side of this dense fog where she will find confidence, peace, and even happiness again. I remind her that she's smart and will figure this out. I believe in her! In this tender moment, I just try to make her feel as normal, healthy, mature, and courageous as possible. Because that's what she is! She has rejected her conditioning and with full integrity wants to become a better, wiser, happier person. I'm not going to compromise that, but only encourage it. That spark I see in her dark passage‚ I'm going to fan that into flames so that she will regain her fearlessness and embrace the profound transformation she has already entered and embraced. She might not realize it, but she's committed, and I'm going to help her keep her resolve. This is not imaginary. This has actually happened many times for me‚ face to face and online with many different people. True stories. Lots of them.

If You Can Encourage Others, You Can Encourage Yourself

Aren't we often told that we are gentler with others than we are with ourselves? I know I am. But this is the trick. The same grace, love, and care I show to others I show to myself. As soon as I'm feeling ashamed or guilty for where I am in my journey, I immediately apply this simple technique. I treat myself like I would treat a friend like Sue sharing her journey with me. It only takes a second. That simple trick, in a split-second, immediately arouses the self-love, self-confidence, and self-care I need to be okay with where I am and to press on undeterred. It's a quick way to endorse myself. It's an immediate way towards my own self-approval. It's a fast way of getting my confidence back and forging ahead with the courage I need to accomplish it. In that rapid turnaround, I love myself and my journey again.

You Can Be Your Own Spiritual Guide

Try can this at home! When you're going through the profound confusion of deconstruction, treat yourself like you're your best friend. Pretend you are sitting across the table from yourself in your favorite coffee shop. Listen to yourself as if you are crazy about this person. Let your heart open softly as you embrace everything, excluding nothing, about this person. Suddenly, you should be able to suspend judgment of yourself. You should be able to have unending patience for yourself. You will love yourself and marvel at the profound meaningfulness of your own special journey towards wholeness, peace of mind, and happiness. Peace on your path, my friends.

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1 comment

Thank you so much! I need this and I’m so thankful for all that you share, by comics and writing.

Bernie Cook

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